Publication Date

Spring 2015

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Kinesiology

Advisor

Jessica W. Chin

Keywords

femininity, gender, Instagram, self-presentation, social media, sports

Subject Areas

Kinesiology; Women's studies; Sociology

Abstract

Mainstream media representations of women have shaped the concepts of femininity and have influenced the way women view and present themselves in various contexts. Erving Goffman’s (1959) Theory on Self-Presentation described how individuals perform roles to project a desired impression to others. Currently, social media platforms allow women to share their lives and interests with a wide-reaching audience. Within this historic context, the purpose of this study was to examine the lives and experiences of amateur female figure competitors who represented themselves and their interests in fitness via photographs on Instagram.

Eight women who shared their fitness journeys on social media and who competed in National Physique Committee figure competitions participated in semi-structured interviews. Thematic analysis of responses yielded 90 raw data themes and 16 higher-order themes, which were then categorized into four general dimensions. Analysis indicated that Instagram was used to provide motivation, knowledge, and feedback to women in relation to their fitness journeys. They were also gratified by being role models for other women who sought self-improvement. These findings add to the existing research on self-presentation and social media usage in a given sociocultural context and the contested terrain of sports.

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